The kids finished school, I made a few sculptures and fixed the bathroom wall and we spent a few days vacuuming up all the dog hair so our dogsitter wouldn't think we were total slobs. Then it was time for vacation.
We've been adding an extra day to our family vacations by going one day early for the last few years. That one day makes a huge difference. We dodge traffic, get an extra day in the sand and often we get to see a different city by spending the first night in a different place like Charleston. This year our weekly rental was open for the extra night which made things easier. We left our dogs pouting on Friday morning and headed out.
For the last several years, our first day of vacation has coincided with National Doughnut Day. This is a special day for me because Krispy Kreme gives away free doughnuts all day. Since we are always scooting across the state, we have found free doughnuts as many as 4 times in one day, one in each city. This year our first stop was Lexington. Sadly, in our beachy excitement, we forgot to get our other free doughnuts in the Krispy Kreme at the other end of our street.
We drove straight to our favorite lunch spot, The Grilled Cheese & Crab Cake Company and saw our favorite waitress. She welcomed us back (I saw her twice just a couple of weeks ago) and she gave us some suggestions for when we would come back later in the week. Then we checked in and just admired the view from the balcony for a few minutes.
We made a quick run for groceries and picked up a little BBQ for dinner and then resumed our spot on the wave observation deck. This is one new thing we learned last week, how to watch it get dark.
I'm pretty good at watching it get light. I'm often up running when the sun comes up, but at the beach I make it my goal. Without any alarms my body jolts up at about 5:45am and gives me just enough time to get outside as the light show starts around 6:00. Each day I'd make it to the pier just as the sun broke the horizon.
And with my one goal met for the day, I was then free to sit in my beach chair and do nothing all day. Maybe nothing isn't the most accurate word. I watched the kids a little, played in the sand and napped. So that's something. One of the joys of this bonus vacation day is having the "turnover day" to spend on the beach. While all the weekly renters are leaving and the new ones moving in, we tanned and napped with the day visitors.
The day's real excitement came when Blue and Violet were boogie boarding in the shallow waves. A lady beside us jumped up and yelled "SHARK!" This happens from time to time and often it's a ray instead of a shark, especially at this time of the year. The rays feed in the very shallow water and when they flip their little "wings" up on the ends they look like shark fins. But this time it was a shark. A black tip shark about 5 or 6 feet long was hanging out very close to Blue and Violet. A little too close for Blue's comfort. (And ours) They basically walked on water getting back to the dry sand and we watched the shark look for lunch all along the coast for the next hour or so. Every time the kids would think about going back in, that little fin would pop up.
For the first day, I always make a skull. For fun I turned the skull sideways to give me an extra challenge. It was tough and I was lazy so Blue was not impressed. He told me I sucked a little. He's honest.
We washed the sand and sunscreen off and made the short trip to Russell's for the best seafood in Murrell's Inlet. G and I have been going to Russell's religiously since way before we had kids. Our hostess friend and waiter friend have watched Blue and Violet grow up. Russell always makes the kids' day by coming by the table and talking to them. I love looking at the marsh so when we leave Russell's, we always have to stop and look at the marsh. It's different each time.
After our nightly walk on the beach, we had finished our first full day of vacation and we still had a week to go. It's such a good feeling.
Sunday morning sunrise.
Sunday morning sunrise run shell finds.
I was scarred by Blue's harsh critique so I tried a little harder on my daily sand sculpture. He was not impressed. He said he'd seen it before. Now I feared I had lost my mojo.
He and Violet made a little fort under the shad of the umbrella.
And before too long they were back out in the ocean, not afraid of the sharks. Of course G and I had to be on alert and they did make me stand in the water with them while they ventured out.
A request was made for a drip castle, so we took our position at the edge of the outgoing tide.
And then I took my position in my chair under the umbrella.
Sunday was the only night I remembered to take my PoserSnap lenses on our beach walk. The macro and the fish eye are my favorites.
G and Violet in the fish eye.
Blue and me in the fish eye.
This was not the week for sharks teeth hunting. This was the biggest one we found all week and it was one of just a handful. I think the beach renourishment project messed us up.
I wont bore you with a day by day for the whole week. You get the idea that we are creatures of habit and when we stumble on to a good thing we more or less stick with it. G's mantra all week was beach, eat, sleep, repeat. We followed it pretty closely.
So out of daily order now...here are the sunrises:
And here's what the sky taught me from these: the more things get in your way, the more beautiful the view. On the mornings with no clouds obstructing the view, the colors were less intense and I found myself turning and pausing my run less frequently. But add some clouds and even a pier and boom, breathtaking. I'm sure there's a life application to this but I'll let you find that on a calendar one day.
We love to eat on vacation. In addition to our two favorites, (Grilled Cheese and Russell's) we also have a pool of lesser favorites open for discussion each day while on the beach. Sitting side by side in our chairs G and I usually discuss what we're in the mood for that day. We got burgers at River City where I got the peanut butter and banana burger. It was great!
We also marched ourselves into the big Paula Deen restaurant at Broadway at the Beach and had some expensive southern cooking. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and banana pudding for dessert for me. I can see the value of a restaurant like this for people who don't have my mom as their mom. But for me, meh. I've had better food. Like, every other Sunday for lunch to be precise. My mom's cooking makes Paula Deen look like an amateur. My mom takes better photos too. Paula scares Blue for some reason but he wasn't afraid of her cardboard version. Bring your credit card if you're going to try this place. I give it six dollar signs. Once and done. We enjoyed the experience but we never have to go back.
We drove the kids through "crazy town" or Ocean Boulevard. I spent so much of my childhood summers there on that street and I hope it wasn't as sketchy then as it is now. Even after they "cleaned it up" several years ago it's still shady as heck. They also had much of it blocked off in preparation for the big country music festival.
With the extra day, we are free to take a day trip during the week and not feel like we're missing any beach time. After a few days of sun and sunscreen we went out for breakfast and then drove up to Wilmington, NC. We took the scenic route through Southport so the kids could ride the ferry.
Driving the car on a boat and then riding across the water was weird for them. But fun.
Just off the ferry is the beach at Fort Fisher.
With a protected coastline where you can see how the constant ocean breeze literally forms the landscape. The shrubs and trees are all pushed inland by the wind so much that they grow that way. I ventured off the path a bit for this photo before remembering rattlesnakes exist.
G and I had not been to Wilmington for a while and we enjoy the town.
The river front has changed a lot since our last visit. There's public art and a lot more shops and restaurants.
We ate at one of the river front places before continuing our exploration.
The old customs house and current courthouse.
Inside the Old City Market we found this mural used in the Coen Brother's Film "The Hudsucker Proxy". It was filmed in Wilmington and the foam mural was made to look like bronze. This was interesting to me and only me. Apparently I was the only one who saw the movie.
You can give us history, adventure and knowledge in a day trip and we'll end up most excited about the goofy. Our visit to The Museum of the Bizarre was the highlight of our day. The "museum" was a weird collection of objects of questionable nature. Some were clearly fake but most were props from movies.
Like this Annabelle doll from the super scary movie. The kids were freaked out by it. As Blue walked by it, trying to hurry away, the freakin' thing moved and he just about soiled himself. It was great. We laughed all day about it. There were a couple of other artifacts on remote control so that when visitors got close and let their guard down, something would scare the bejesus out of them. And of course any place with Bigfoot evidence is ok with me.
In keeping with the weird theme of Wilmington, we had to drive by the Presbyterian church on our way out of town to get a closer look at the fancy steeple with the giant chicken weather vane on the top. Very interesting.
The rest of the week in sand sculptures:
The big sleeping dog gave me a little confidence back.
The suntanning skeleton was my personal favorite. He was at least 10 feet long and very detailed. It may not be obvious to non-sand sculptors but this was the most difficult sand sculpture I've ever attempted. The details, the verticals and the undercuts were very challenging and it all turned out without any major disasters.
That one gave me the confidence to try a waffle. I was missing my waffle maker and I wasn't afraid of details anymore. This was my big head eating a giant waffle.
The beach monster on the last day was everyone else's favorite.
The scale of this thing was huge. That's a sand bucket in the background for reference. Through the week, we got to know our beach neighbors through the sand sculptures. By Wednesday they were coming out early in the morning and asking me what I was making today. Then they'd check in through the morning and then come by after I was finished to take photos. One lady was a friend from last summer. She found my sculptures on the beach on a walk last June and then her and her husband ended up staying in the same place as us in late summer. On Monday she walked over to say hello again. Strange coincidences.
Each morning after my run, this was the thing I looked forward to. My coffee and breakfast on the balcony. The balcony was my favorite place this trip. This particular place offered a corner balcony so there was a lot of breeze. G and I spent so much time out there and maybe that's what made it so enjoyable. We would just sit side by side and read or stare out at the vast expanse of water. We talked about important and goofy things. And we'd share coffee.
Normally I wait on my exiting day run until we get home. But in June here in the South that means running in 90% humidity around 90 degrees when I'm used to running at dawn. So this year I decided to be ridiculous and get up at 4:30 am to run on the beach. If you ever consider this, you should know that it's dark. Very dark. So dark that you'll trip over sand piles and step in holes filled with water. But, it was about 70 degrees so I'm calling it a good decision.
That's about it. We had lots of ice cream and lots of food. We had lots of fun. I finished the book Travels With Charley and started on Everybody Always. I didn't draw much. We watched Austin Powers one night and I avoided the TV the rest of the week. Now I have to figure out how to watch the kids all summer while getting some work done and getting ready for the summer studio sale. Stay tuned.